Football's world governing body, FIFA has shifted India's group matches of the upcoming U-17 World Cup from Mumbai to the national capital after the government request. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) initially wanted Mumbai to host India's matches but later asked FIFA to shift them to New Delhi under pressure from the sports ministry. The government felt it was appropriate that the national capital hosts the home team's matches.
"Following a request from the All India Football Federation to hold the group matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 in which India are playing in New Delhi, and the fruitful discussions between the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the local government, FIFA has agreed to amend the match schedule," the Local Organising Committee (LOC) said in a statement.
As per the amended schedule, Group A, featuring the home team, which is automatically seeded as A1, will be based in New Delhi and teams of Group B will be based in Navi Mumbai. Matches for the knockout stage remain as planned before.
Acknowledging the increased efforts of the local authorities and the LOC in connection with the requested amendment, FIFA's Head of Tournaments Jaime Yarza said: "Attendance, especially in the venue where the home team plays its matches, is one of the priorities of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, crucial to achieving the purpose of better positioning football in the country, so the government's commitment in this regard is highly appreciated.
"The presence of the secretary of sports at the meetings concerning the state of the works in the stadium and training sites sends a positive message and reflects the strong involvement of the authorities.
"We expect this involvement to extend into the area of pollution prevention, which has been an important topic discussed in relation to the tournament, in particular in Delhi. We are now expecting an action response plan to prevent pollution levels from affecting the tournament, which ideally should continue beyond the tournament."
Besides India, who are automatically qualified as hosts, the following teams have booked their tickets to the competition: Iran, Iraq, Japan, Korea DPR (Asia); New Caledonia, New Zealand (Oceania); Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay (South America); Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, USA (North, Central America and Caribbean); England, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey (Europe); Mali, Niger, Ghana, and Guinea (Arica).
(With PTI Inputs)